The Problem of Blind Faith

In talking with skeptical students around Boston, I have learned that few things drive them as crazy as Christians with a blind faith. They are perplexed: “How can your core convictions be completely divorced from reason and logic?”

Three examples, just from the past year, illustrate the problem:

  • Last fall, a student faithfully shared the gospel with his non-believing roommates. Instead of his friends converting by the power of the Holy Spirit, their informed, intelligent rebuttals of Christianity led him to wonder if his childhood faith held any intellectual legitimacy.
  • A student told me he convinced his mom to stop attending an evangelical church because she couldn’t explain to him why the Bible or the sermons made any sense.
  • Two students who each wanted to know if being a Christian required believing that the world was 6,000 years old. Their previous church homes taught that an acceptance of young earth creationism was necessary in order to “really” believe in the Bible and be a “genuine” Christian.

In general, the problem with blind faith is that if you’re opposed to God, you have too many easy targets to look down on, and this might keep you from genuinely exploring. And if you are spiritually curious, it leads to a frustrating question: Can you believe in a God that you sense might be there, but who seems rationally unknowable?

If you’re a Christian, the presence of blind faith hinders evangelism, discourages church involvement, and undermines your spiritual growth. When Christians are not informed about the many reasons for God, their faith rests on an intellectually weak foundation. With a weak foundation, their spiritual home becomes unstable and is difficult to share with others. If spiritual leaders convince you that believing things without any reason to do so is virtuous, then you’ve opened yourself up to being misled by anything they tell you.

Sometimes blind faith claims are sustained by separating the “I don’t know” part from the “here’s my conclusion” section. But what if we put these together, right next to each other?

The Bible is completely, 100% true.
I cannot explain how the text of the Bible was transmitted from the original authors to us.

Jesus is the only way to God.
I am unfamiliar with the main doctrines of religions like Islam and Hinduism.

You can’t argue anyone into being a believer in Jesus.
I’m not sure why theism is a better worldview than naturalism.

Jesus rose from the dead.
I don’t know much about the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus.

If you’re a skeptic, my guess is that you are feeling all the frustration again. It is shocking to hear someone say something you strongly disagree with, to have an open mind and ask for an explanation, and then be stiff-armed with an emphatic statement like, “Stop being so difficult. Why can’t you just believe!”  I can see why this turns you off from faith and how you could get angry that religious people are highly influential in some social situations.

If that describes you, I would challenge you to raise the bar of your engagement with Christians to the highest level you can take it. Maybe begin with Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis or The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. If that’s weak sauce, go after Reasonable Faith by William Lane Craig. Hungering for something bristling with the toughest arguments? Work your way through The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology. I’ve even put together a list of recommended books for you. Frankly, it isn’t that intellectually impressive to take the lamest arguments from your limited circle of Christian friends and infer that their relative weakness entirely discredits Christianity.

If you’re a Christian, my guess is that you’re either angry with me for criticizing Christians or feeling overwhelmed by how much you need to learn in order to back up orthodox Christianity. It is definitely easier and simpler to fall back on “I just know” and “My pastor is very smart and impressive and he says so.” And the reality is that very few people have the time, energy, or inclination to read, study, think about, and carefully process all of these issues. If you are balancing a few part-time jobs or a demanding full-time job, raising a family, caring for an elderly parent, doing extensive volunteer service, or otherwise actively engaged in the challenges of everyday life, it is difficult to spend time researching the evidence for your faith.

At the same time, if we are able to learn about these things, we have a responsibility to do so. Taking the Great Commission seriously requires that we put in the time and effort to become intellectually equipped to explain the reasons for our beliefs. Many people are highly educated on why their sports team is the best in the league, their favorite politician is the one to vote for, and their preferred car brand is superior to the alternatives. If we are spending more time watching TV or playing video games than we are carefully studying reasons to believe in God, may I gently suggest that we have misplaced priorities?